The History of Give Thanks Give Back
Give Thanks Give Back has been a full-fledged annual gift drive at Washington University in St. Louis since 2001. Give Thanks Give Back supports 100 Neediest Cases (a joint project of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the United Way), which runs a holiday gift drive to benefit the poorest families in St. Louis. 100 Neediest Cases identifies over 10,000 cases of area residents struggling to overcome poverty during the holiday season. Give Thanks Give Back brings this city-wide effort to help St. Louis families onto Washington University’s campus. GTGB organizes and oversees student, faculty, and staff groups that sponsor the families. These sponsors buy gifts, clothing, household appliances, and/or other items that their adopted families have requested. The gift drive culminates every year with two wrapping parties in which volunteers wrap the donated gifts. Washington University became involved with the program in 1998 when staff members in the Office of Student Activities adopted a single family. By 2001, the effort evolved into a campus-wide program named Give Thanks Give Back. In 2002, the Washington University community adopted 83 families. In the past three years, Give Thanks Give Back has successfully adopted between 110 and 185 families. This feat was accomplished through the hard work of a committee of undergraduate students and the generosity of countless individuals, departments, Greek organizations, student groups, and residential floors.
100 Neediest Cases
Since 1900, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has sponsored a holiday drive to benefit less fortunate families in St. Louis. Through time the event has evolved, and today the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the United Way work with of social service agencies to identify over 10,000 cases of area residents struggling to overcome poverty. As the holiday season approaches, the newspaper publishes 100 of these personal case stories. Each year, support arrives in the form of corporate donations, monetary gifts, and wrapped presents. Although each of the 10,000 cases will receive some monetary assistance, only a small percentage of families are “adopted,” meaning that an individual, group, or business sponsor agrees to buy gifts for a particular family.
Grace Hill is a local social service agency and is one of the many social service agencies in the St Louis area that participates in 100 Neediest Cases. When Grace Hill first participated in the program in the late 1960s, a total of 25 cases were submitted. By 2002, a total of 2,299 cases were submitted. In GTGB’s first year as a student organization, 100 Neediest Cases sent us cases of families at Grace Hill. We have since made a personal connection with the agency and have since requested Grace Hill cases from 100 Neediest Cases. Grace Hill is involved in the community in many more ways than this. They offer many services, such as Neighborhood College where people can learn communication skills, training in a particular area, and receive GED training. They offer child care and elderly care programs, services, and support. One of Grace Hill’s main themes is neighbors helping neighbors, so most of their programs are staffed by volunteers. They are located in the communities they serve, so are connected to the people who they serve.